Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Speedily rebuild, in our days


I just posted a story yesterday about the need for the red heifer
, and it appears that even though we have no red heifer, we do have the possibility of one in the very near future.

This is incredible, and strange--especially the part about the child. What do they mean by "isolation"? Do they mean isolated from everyone, or just isolated from the contamination of death? I would sure like to know more about that one. I mean, wouldn't it be possible for the whole family to agree to raise a child without contact of death, watching every moment--and not have to give that child, as Hanah did Samuel, to the Temple Priests?

So, maybe soon we will have our red heifer. Now, as I said, we need the earthquake from Hashm to destroy the monstrosity on our Temple Mount.

Then we will know with certainty it is time.

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

Once, not many years ago, the people of the Temple Institute planned to import frozen fetuses of a red heifer from a Scandinavian country and implant them in the uterus of an Israeli cow. The aim was to create the rare animal whose burnt ashes served in Temple times to purify those who had become ritually unclean due to contact with the dead and enabled people to enter the Temple compound in a state of purity.

Late last week, on the eve of the Shabbat in week the Torah portion Hukkat is read, in which the red heifer is mentioned, it became clear that the people associated with the Temple Institute, who for 25 years have been researching the Temple and its rituals, creating vessels for future use in the Temple and maintaining contact with scientists and research institutes worldwide, believe they have cracked the genetic code that will make it possible to clone a red heifer.

The "recreation" of the red heifer is likely to have a far-reaching effect on the view of rabbis who at present forbid the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount, partly because of the latter's status as "tamei met." This status describes any Jew who has ever come into contact with a human corpse or with people or objects that have touched a corpse. In terms of halakha (Jewish religious law), we are all in effect tamei met.
Will the people of the Temple Institute therefore begin to clone the red heifer now?

The answer is no. Not because they don't want to do so, but because according to halakha the red heifer can only be handled by priests who themselves are in a state of purity.

Because there are no ashes of a red heifer with which to purify priests, the only solution would be to find priestly families who are willing to give up their children immediately after their birth for a special mission: to have them raised and prepared in conditions of isolation and purity for at least 13 years, so that they can handle the next red heifer, if and when it returns.

The community of Mitzpeh Yeriho has expressed a willingness to allocate land for a compound for this purpose, but it should come as no surprise that few families have volunteered to hand over their children and have them raised in relative isolation for such a long time.

Until the dream of the red heifer can be realized and the compound built, the Temple Institute is making do with more modest initiatives. A few days ago a workshop for priestly garments, under the aegis of the Temple Institute, was dedicated on Ma'amadot Yisrael Street in Jerusalem's Old City.

According to the institute?s director, Yehuda Glick, by the intermediate days of the Sukkot holiday, in October, 120 sets of priestly garments will have been completed. The team of tailors, working under designer Aviad Jerufi, whose specializes in ancient clothing, will personally measure and fit, for each of the 120 lucky men, a set of priestly garments that includes a tunic, turban, belt and pants.

The project is being funded by a wealthy Jew from Kiev, the Ukraine.

The fabrics are ready. They were woven in accordance with the halakhic requirement for "bigdei shesh" from a six-ply linen thread. The linen was spun in India and then sent to a plant in Gedera for threading onto spindles for the looms.

The material was woven in a textile workshop in Tel Aviv and sent for finishing washing and softening; in a plant in Rishon Letzion. At the dedication ceremony for the Jerusalem tailoring workshop Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who is a kohen (of priestly descent), the rabbi of the community of Efrat and the head of the Or Torah Institutes, volunteered to try on one of the sets of garments.

Each year about 100,000 people visit the Temple Institute, located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem?s Old City. Half are Christians, the rest are mainly Israeli students and soldiers in organized groups. They view the various displays, watch presentations and receive explanations from docents. The annual budget of the institute is NIS 10 million. Most comes from donations, and a small percentage is paid by the state: NIS 200,000 from the Ministry of Education and NIS 100,000 from the Ministry of Culture.

For several years now a golden menorah (candelabrum) weighing about half a ton has been standing in the heart of the Cardo, in the Jewish Quarter.

It contains about 45 kilograms of 24-karat gold, and its value is estimated at about $3 million. The menorah is a copy of the gold menorah in the Temple. It was the product of many years of work by Temple Institute researchers, based on ancient rabbinic sources, Maimonides, the description by contemporary historian Josephus Flavius and on drawings that survive from Temple times.

The institute, which has recreated many other Temple vessels, was founded by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, and among members of the Temple Mount movements his philosophy is perhaps the clearest: There is no mitzvah in the Torah to mourn the Temple, wrote Ariel recently in a letter to the public. "We have to go out to a quarry, bring stones and build."

The Temple will not descend readymade from heaven, but will be built by human beings. "The people of the Second Temple," says Rabbi Ariel, "did not develop a ritual of weeping over the Temple. Instead of weeping on the 9th of Av (the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple) they worked hard.

They carried stones to build the altar and renewed the rituals.... The 9th of Av is approaching.... We will sit on the ground.... We will hear the reading of the book of Lamentations from a brokenhearted old man.... Is the cantor serious about his lamentation.... During all the days of the year he looks quite happy, and if the destruction of the Temple really bothers him, why doesn't he do something concrete to build it."

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